Rights Groups Say Iran's State TV Aired 355 Confessions Extracted Under Duress Over A Decade
By RFE/RL June 25, 2020
A joint report by two rights organizations accuses Iran's state-controlled television of airing the forced confessions of at least 355 individuals between 2009 and 2019 to create fear and repress dissent.
The report, released on June 25 by the London-based Justice for Iran (JFI) and the Paris-based International Federation For Human Rights, highlights the Islamic republic's long-standing practice of forcing detainees to confess to charges dictated to them by their interrogators and the involvement of state TV in the production and broadcast of the coerced statements.
The report says Iran's state broadcaster, IRIB, has become a "means of mass suppression" that in collaboration with the Intelligence Ministry and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), is actively involved in human rights violations.
"IRIB is not simply a media organization and by no means an independent one, but rather an organ of state suppression that uses the tools of mass communication," the report says.
Former detainees and others have outlined in the report details of how they were coached by state television reporters to read from whiteboards.
"The recording was stopped several times, and the process was repeated until the interrogators or IRIB reporters were satisfied that the detainee had answered the questions in a 'natural' manner," the report said.
'Torture And Intimidation'
Some recounted being beaten, threatened with sexual violence, and having their loved ones used against them to extract false testimonies later aired on state television news segments, magazines, and programs that masqueraded as documentaries, the report said.
Women's rights activist Farzaneh Jalali told JFI that personal photos of her with her boyfriend were frequently used by her interrogators to exert pressure on her while Swedish-Iranian scholar Ahmadreza Jalali wrote in a letter from prison that his interrogators threatened that they would arrest and hurt his two small children if he refused to make an on-camera confession.
Washington sanctioned a bank supporting IRIB in November 2018. It had already imposed sanctions on the broadcaster's director, Abdulali Ali-Asgari, in May of that year.
The U.S. Treasury says IRIB "routinely broadcasts false news reports and propaganda, including forced confessions of political detainees." U.S. prosecutors allege that an IRIB staffer recruited a former U.S. Air Force intelligence analyst for the IRGC.
The June 25 report said the international community should recognize that the broadcast of forced confessions and defamatory content could constitute a form of torture while urging foreign states to adopt laws to prosecute those responsible.
JFI Co-Director Mohammad Nayyeri called on the European Union to suspend the entry of IRIB-affiliated officials and reporters into Europe, as well as their operations, until the practice is stopped.
"Iran has long escaped responsibility for coercing forced confessions," Nayyeri said.
"While Iran's state-run television is constantly airing programs that are the product of torture and intimidation, IRIB reporters freely travel and operate in Europe without any consequences," he said.
Iranian officials have not publicly reacted to the report.
With reporting by AP
Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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